LINN COUNTY, Iowa - The Linn County Auditor’s Office hopes filling a vacant election clerk position with someone who can speak more than just English will help minority voters feel more included and better informed during elections.
“I studied English and Spanish as majors, and minors in French and cinema studies,” said Caitlin MacDonald, during her first day on the job this week.
MacDonald, a University of Illinois graduate, is learning election lingo, and she’s excited about combining that with her multilingual abilities.
“The town I’m from originally had about 62 percent Hispanic/Latino population, and I noticed that it’s not as diverse here, significantly less so, so I think I bring some valuable experience,” she told us.
Linn County Auditor Joel Miller said his office is tweaking MacDonald’s job description. It’s currently temporary, but the hope is to make it permanent to help minority voters.
“If there’s a face the community can kind of associate with, then that might build relationships,” said MacDonald.
Miller said thousands of voters in Linn County identify as non-white, and don’t speak English well enough to understand ballot items. He hopes having more bi-lingual or tri-lingual county workers could help.
“What’s the Secretary of State?” Miller said as an example. “What is the Attorney General? What’s the sheriff? They may not know what the translation of that is.”
Part of MacDonald’s job may include outreach efforts.
“So maybe I could go into the community and set up kind of like an office hours situation, where I’m in one place and people can come ask questions or bring forms they don’t know what to do with,” said MacDonald.
Miller is looking for channels to get that information out.
“There are certainly some newspapers that are in Spanish, I think there’s a radio station or two that’s in Spanish,” Miller told us.
Ultimately, his goal is to encourage more civic engagement in a growing part of the community.
“They pay property taxes, they buy license plates, they want and need the same services as everyone else,” Miller explained.